February 7, 2023

A teenager discovers a planet after a three-day internship at NASA

earth globe

Seventeen-year-old Wolf Cukier pointed out the existence of a new planet the size of Earth called YOU 1338b.

While an internship in a company can sometimes mean coffee distribution and photocopying chores for many students, this is not the case for Wolf Cukier who discovered the existence of a planet on his third day at NASA.

On January 6, the agency announced the discovery of a new planet the size of Earth and not too close or too far from its star for liquid water to be (perhaps) present and therefore potentially habitable.

Renamed TOI 1338b, the planet has been detected by the planet-hunting software TESS. Yes, but not only that. This find is also the work of a 17-year-old intern, Wolf Cukier.

This teenager had been on a three-day internship at the Goddard Space Center in Maryland when he was asked to analyze the TESS data. That’s when he noticed something “suspicious”.

Alerted, Veselin Kostov, his tutor, looked into the young man’s discovery and confirmed that he had probably found a new planet: “Wolf and I spent hours checking the reliability of our discovery. Once we were sure, we contacted our colleagues,” Veselin Kostov told The Independent newspaper.

The planet YOU 1338b is “7 times bigger than the Earth. It revolves around two stars. One is 10% more massive than our Sun, the other is three times smaller and less luminous,” reports the Washington Post.


An article co-authored with astronomers

This discovery marks the beginning of a new career for the young scientist. Wolk Cukier has been invited to record his work in a scientific article, co-written with astronomers, which will be published after scientific review.

Wolf Cukier’s discovery was welcomed this week by the American Astronomical Society, meeting in Hawaii.

A nice way to start the year, and to confirm his vocation: Wolf hopes to study physics or astrophysics in prestigious American universities, such as Stanford, MIT or Princeton.

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